Monday 17 October 2022

Red-eyed Vireo, Seaton Point 15/10/22

 A short write-up of what will probably be my find of the year before the easterlies hit midweek. For the past two weeks, a Nearctic passerine had been on my radar on the patch, and several times I noted to locals that there was more chance of us finding a yank than something from the east.

Saturday the 15th of October was a fairly mundane affair on the patch at Boulmer, though a couple of nice finds by old Spurn mate Jonnie Fisk up the coast at Low Newton kept me looking. I checked Longhoughton Steel early afternoon, paying particularly close attention to the Golden Plover flock, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. A few Redwing in-off made me take the walk back to the car and reset at Seaton Pt to look for any new-in migrants or waders.

A fairly breezy south-westerly made things tricky, but there were a few Redwing and Blackbird in the bushes, and a Chiffchaff gave some hope around the farmhouse. At around 1708, walking across the caravan site intending to check the beach, I reached the first Hawthorn in a little patch that often holds a few migrants; before I stopped, I noticed a rather pale bird clumsily flitting around at eye level, and on putting my bins up was met with a rather plump, olive-green bird facing away.

I've seen only one other Red-eyed Vireo, at Spurn a few years ago, but knew before it turned it's head that this is what this bird was. Duly, it did turn it's head, a grey crown and striking super beaming out of the dark of the bush - then the panic started. I'd been viewing the bird through other branches, and initial attempts to grab a photo failed epically. Do I put news out straight away, knowing I'd have to faff around with location pings etc, or push for a record shot? I did the latter, but failed again for a couple of minutes.

With clouds looming and light starting to ebb away I hurridly put a message on the county Whatsapp Group, along with my location, but in doing so had lost track of the bird. Thankfully, it was still there, motionless in the bottom of the hawthorn, and it was here I got my first shots.

Very similar to my first views, this time then focus managed to lock

After climbing to the top of the hawthorn the bird then flew a short distance out of view - it was here that I lost it for almost 10 minutes, before relocating it in another small hawthorn down the track. Another short flight and some good close, but oscured, views followed before it ended up in a quite a sparse hawthorn for the final 10/15 minutes I saw it. Luckily, John Rutter managed to arrive and get a good view before it seemingly bunked down for the evening, frustratingly just minutes before a larger group of birders began to arrive.

Views gradually improved, until it got into the sparse hawthron below...

An very blustery start on Sunday morning saw a small group of us looking to no avail, and despite me heading back late afternoon in stiller conditions, it does seem to have moved on. A shame, but that area never tends to hold birds for long, my Dusky Warbler in 2020 staying for two days about the only exception I think. Without doubt my best find this year, probably ever given the verdict on my Spurn Baikal Teal, it becomes the 197th species I've seen within 5km from home this year. 

Boulmer brought me my first Nearctic find in 2020, an American Golden Plover, and now my first yank passerine, pretty incredible really. Hopefully some sibes to come this week get me across the 200 mark!

Sunday 25 September 2022

Gulls and shearwaters...July

Again, I've left it too long to write up my patch update, but this one should cover July at least: always an exciting month as Autumn gets rolling, and thankfully the summer gulling was decent, alongside good seawatching with some large Shears in the North Sea.

After the excitement of the Surf Scoter on 04 Jul, a seawatch on the 8th produced a Minke Whale and probably Cory's Shearwater north at Howick, also seen by Mark at Cullernose, but just too distant in the haze to confirm. More searching for local Long-eared Owls failed throughout the month unfortunately, but I did stumble on a few Quail. including two on the 12th and three on 13th, with a single still singing on the 29th ivo Dunstan. Four White-beaked Dolphins initially close in off Longoughton Steel on the 12th evaded the camera, but were nice to catch up with again, far 'busier' than the local Bottlenose.

Also on the 13th was my first juv Yellow-legged Gull of the year at Boulmer, resting on the field in the centre of the village (180). Not a classic brute of an individual, but the features observed alongside the early date for anything else meant that feedback from London gullers was all positive, alleviating any fears I had. The tertials, small but noticeable primary window, tail pattern and pale belly shown below are all perfect for juv YLG, with the only real confusion species of Lesser-black Backed Gull also not yet as advanced.

A chance seawatch from Cullernose with Mark on the 21st proved a great decision, as he picked up a Cory's Shear going N, anout 2/3s out. My first confirmed in Northumberland and a good one to get so early on in the year (181), it showed far better than the distant possible we'd had, and gave the impression of a particularly large individual. 

The next decent bird was another Yellow-legged Gull, this time an adult on the Steel with a pretty sizeable flock of large Gulls. It stuck around for an hour or so, and after Tom and Muriel managed to connect, I plucked up the courage to walk out and get some better shots - I'm glad I did, as the flight pics show the wing formula nicely, and as the bird was in moult it looked a little strange on the deck.

Photobombed by the local Dolphins - it's not a bad coastline!

Nice mantle shade comparison with all common confusion species

p10 and p9 mirrors, more advanced moult, perfect underside of p10, and erm, yellow legs

The first Pom Skua and Sooty Shearwater went north early morning at Howick on the 23rd (182, 183), but were trumped by my own Cory's north there on the morning of the 26th. This bird was just before I was about to leave for work, with the extra height provided by Howick allowing me to get some ropey video on my phone...

Not close, but they're pretty easy in good conditions

That evening, I joined Stewart and a few other locals watching from Cullernose, and I picked up another Cory's going N, Stewart's first for his patch which was nice. A similar sort of distance, we watched it for about 12 minutes slowly shearing it's way past, being overtaken by everything. Other seawwatching bits in this period included the odd Sooty, plenty of Manx, a nice northerly passage of juv Med Gulls and an Avocet N at Howick.

A really nice juv Yellow-legged Gull I found on Longhoughton Steel on the 27th was the next decent bird, and stuck around for a few allowing a few people to connect. This one was a classim: almost GBB sized, warm, big billed, with spot on greater coverts and tertials and all necessary features there in flight. 

Neat, tapering black tail band contrasting with the fairly clean white uppertail

Distinct but reduced pale primary window compared to Herring

Pretty much textbook...note the lengthy bubblegum pink legs too

Another Gull to close the month out on the 30th, though much trickier. I picked it up whilst watching the above juv, and straight away noted the mantle and clean head, with a peculiar facial expression evident. In retrospect, I think it's a 1st summer YLG, but at the time I called a Casp, probably influenced too heavily by that strange bill / forehead combo. Equally, it could be a weird Herring...

On stilts and with a very snouty look at times

The tertials looked decent for a YLG / Casp

Anyway, a good month overall (not quite Sooty Tern in 2020 levels): 3 Cory's, at least 3 YLG, 3 Quail, and the already mentioned Surf Scoter being the highlight. Up to 183 for my local big year, so a little slower there, but to be expected in midsummer.                                                                                                                                                                         

Red-eyed Vireo, Seaton Point 15/10/22

 A short write-up of what will probably be my find of the year before the easterlies hit midweek. For the past two weeks, a Nearctic passeri...